Five of the six most recent judicial appointments in New Brunswick have strong connections to the federal Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs and Northern Affairs and Internal Trade Dominic LeBlanc, raising questions of favouritism and political patronage.
The connections to LeBlanc, MP for the New Brunswick riding of Beauséjour, come despite promises by the federal Liberals to appoint the “most meritorious jurists” to judicial vacancies.
The appointments include the wife of LeBlanc’s brother-in-law and prominent donors to both the Liberal Party and the federal Liberal association for LeBlanc’s riding.
The details of the connections were first reported by CBC New Brunswick.
Justice Minister David Lametti announced the appointments of Arthur Doyle and Robert Dysart as judges to the trial division of the Court of Queen’s Bench earlier this month.
A press release touted that the appointments were made under the “judicial application process” which “emphasizes transparency, merit, and diversity.”
But financial records filed with Elections Canada reveal that both men are contributors to the Liberal Party of Canada and the Liberal Association for the federal riding of Beauséjour.
Doyle has been contributing to various Liberal Party organizations since 2006.
He has made a total of $4,148.35 in contributions to the Beauséjour Federal Liberal Association since 2009.
Doyle, who served as a partner with the legal firm Cox & Palmer, lives in Saint John which is located approximately 100 kilometres away from LeBlanc’s riding.
Dysart, a partner at Stewart McKelvey in Moncton, has contributed a total of $1,640.39 to the Beauséjour Federal Liberal Association since 2008.
Both men were among a group of donors who gave money in 2009 to help LeBlanc cover approximately $31,000 in debt related to his unsuccessful 2008 federal Liberal leadership campaign, according to records filed with Elections Canada.
But they weren’t the only ones.
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Charles LeBlond, a partner at Stewart McKelvey LLP, and Moncton businessman Jacques Pinet were also among the contributors.
Records filed with Elections Canada show that since 2005, LeBlond has contributed $7,822.74 to the Beauséjour Federal Liberal Association.
In March, LeBlond was appointed as a judge to New Brunswick’s Court of Appeal.
Pinet did not receive a position as a judge. But Pinet himself, a longtime donator to the federal Liberal Party, is married to Tracey DeWare.
DeWare, who has only donated to the federal Conservative Party, according to records filed with Elections Canada, has served as a judge for the Family Division of the New Brunswick Court of Queen’s Bench.
But in June, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced that he was appointing DeWare as the chief justice of New Brunswick’s Court of Queen’s Bench.
CBC New Brunswick has reported that DeWare and Pinet purchased a seaside property in Grande-Digue, N.B., from LeBlanc in 2013.
In a fifth appointment, Marie-Claude Bélanger-Richard was picked to fill a judicial vacancy in Saint John in 2018.
Bélanger-Richard, a family lawyer based in Moncton, is married to LeBlanc’s brother-in-law.
Rachel Rappaport, Lametti’s press secretary, said in a statement that “all judicial appointments are made on the basis of merit.”
“Candidates are first evaluated by independent Judicial Advisory Committees, who thoroughly review the applications and provide recommendations to the Minister,” stated Rappaport.
“As with all Canadian citizens, judicial candidates are free to engage personally in political activities. The appointments process neither disqualifies nor privileges an applicant on the basis of political association.”
Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer was swift to condemn the news, saying the Liberals were “caught red-handed abusing the power of their offices to reward their rich and powerful friends.”
“Canadians saw this during the SNC-Lavalin corruption scandal, when Justin Trudeau tried to protect his corporate friends. They saw it when Trudeau handed millions of dollars to Loblaw’s, a multi-billion company, to buy new fridges. And they’re seeing it again today, with close personal friends of a Trudeau minister getting government appointments.